Canada is now the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began early on Wednesday in Newfoundland.
Hours before a handful of retail outlets opened in the country’s easternmost province, a federal official told AP that Canada will pardon all those with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the now-legal threshold.
Sales figures on the first morning suggested considerable demand for cannabis products across the country.
Shopify is powering many of the provincial online stores and said it had recorded than 100 cannabis orders per minute.
Ontario premier Doug Ford said the province’s government-run online store processed 38,000 orders by mid-morning.
The New Brunswick provincial online sales outlet Cannabis NB reported an average of 700 live users each hour viewing its website and several hundred purchases in its first few hours of operation.
Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include so-called recreational marijuana.
The goal is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.
Uruguay was first was the first country to legalise marijuana.
His is among at least 111 legal marijuana shops expected to open across the nation of 37 million people on Wednesday, with many more to come, according to an AP survey of the provinces.
Canadians also can order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.
Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.
No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and does not expect stores until next spring.
Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it is about time.
“Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no one from me ever,” he said.
Canada’s national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with national prohibition in the United States.
Nine US states have legalised recreational use of cannabis, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana.
California, the largest legal market in the US, earlier this month became the first state with a law mandating expungement of criminal convictions for marijuana-related offences that no longer are illegal.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said it is time for the US government to follow Canada’s lead.
“Now that our neighbour to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” he said in a statement.
US Customs and Border Protection invited Canadian media to a conference call on Tuesday so officials could reiterate that marijuana remains illegal under US federal law and that those who are caught at the border with marijuana are subject to arrest and prosecution.
As Canada welcomes legalisation, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some US states when legalisation arrived.
Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company has 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province has supplied only enough product to open three of them on Wednesday.
“We’re aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months,” Mr Fencott said.
Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor plan to open their shop in Labrador City in Newfoundland and Labrador at 4.20pm on Wednesday — 420 is slang for the consumption of cannabis.
Ms Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they will be cutting a ribbon and cake.
“We are just ecstatic,” she said.